Aid to displaced people in South Darfur remains insufficient

New surveys reveal health and nutritional situation is precarious.
© Ton Koene Click image for larger view "It is a disgrace that just minutes from Nyala international airport, up to 66,000 displaced people continue to live without adequate food or sanitation," says Vince Hoedt, coordinator of MSF's programs in South Darfur. Nyala, Sudan/Amsterdam - Epidemiological surveys newly completed by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in South Darfur, Sudan, reveal that the overall level and quality of aid remains insufficient. In Kalma camp near Nyala, where an estimated 66,000 people fleeing violence have sought shelter and MSF is treating 3,900 malnourished children, the survey found malnutrition and mortality rates well above emergency levels. MSF warns that without increased mobilization of aid to South Darfur, the health and nutritional situation in the region could deteriorate further. "It is a disgrace that just minutes from Nyala international airport, up to 66,000 displaced people continue to live without adequate food or sanitation," says Vince Hoedt, coordinator of MSF's programs in South Darfur. "The people in Kalma camp are completely dependent on food distributions that are irregular and insufficient. More people fleeing ongoing violence in the region continue to arrive. "Despite the presence of aid organizations in the camp, the international community and the government of Sudan have not been able to meet the basic needs". MSF is providing healthcare and nutritional support in Kalma camp but more help is urgently required to prevent the situation from getting worse. Carried out between September 2-6, the MSF and Epicentre survey in Kalma camp found that; almost a quarter of the children under five, 23.6%, were malnourished; 3.3% of them so severely that immediate help is necessary to prevent them from dying. A retrospective mortality survey conducted simultaneously revealed that, in the past seven months, approximately 2,500 people had died, of which 1,100 were children under five. These figures are way above emergency threshold levels. Estimates over the last month do not show any improvement, despite increased access to health resources in Kalma camp. The largest single cause of death in Kalma is diarrhea but violence was responsible for 57% of deaths in adults. An additional MSF and Epicentre epidemiological survey carried out at the end of August among the estimated 78,000 people living in Kass also found a high number of deaths over recent months, especially among children under five. In Muhajiriya, 90 kilometers east of Nyala, a survey found less malnutrition but the estimated 13,000 displaced people are newly arrived, having fled ongoing violence in the region. Eighty-eight percent of recent adult deaths in this population were violent. With few possessions and no food reserves, their situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not deployed. "Displaced people in South Darfur continue to live on the edge," said Hoedt. "They feel unsafe and are afraid to return to their homes because of ongoing violence, and more people are arriving every day in Kalma and Muhajariya. Food distributions have managed to stave off the worst for now, but the situation remains precarious and unless aid is increased and maintained over the long term, preventable deaths from disease and malnutrition will continue." MSF currently has over 200 international aid workers and 2,000 national staff working throughout Darfur and an additional 35 international staff caring for displaced Darfurians in Chad. MSF medical teams in more than 26 locations in Darfur conduct medical consultations, treat victims of violence, care for severely and moderately malnourished children, improve water and sanitation conditions, and provide blanket feedings and other essential items for more than 700,000 displaced people.